Can community gardens in Camden, New Jersey help to support local health needs and, if so, are the surrounding streets and intersections safe conduits for residents to access these spaces for healthy eating and recreation?
Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) was recently awarded a grant that will seek to answer this question.
The grant will support a day-long health impact and livability assessment in Camden called “Walking Towards the Green.” The assessment will take place in the spring, and will include a walking audit to inventory and note community assets and needs such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, trails, green space, community gardens and access to community gardens. This work is funded through the Shaping New Jersey program, which “focuses on environmental and policy change to reduce obesity and chronic disease.”
TSTC will be working with dedicated local partners – the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership – to conduct this assessment, which will focus on engaging neighborhood residents, with a specific focus on soliciting feedback from local youth. With nearly 36 percent of Camden’s population under age 20, and 58 percent of children aged three to 18 failing to meet national physical activity guidelines, it is especially important that this population is included in order to gain meaningful insight on barriers to walking and biking.
The poor condition of sidewalks, lack of crosswalks, trails or bicycle lanes, and conditions such as poor lighting and heavy truck traffic often serve as impediments to physical activity and can contribute to poor physical health. This grant will forge partnerships between neighborhood residents, advocates and the health and business communities to address the effect of transportation infrastructure on community health.
The assessment will incorporate information about open space, transportation and environmental projects already moving forward in the study neighborhood and seek to “connect the dots” between them by providing a toolkit, including GIS mapping, that can be used to guide future investments. By working hand-in-hand with local residents and coalition partners, opportunities to incorporate walking and biking into people’s daily lives can be greatly improved.